UPDATE: Customs impound $8.06 million cash at Lagos airport

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), on Tuesday, revealed that Customs officers attached to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Command impounded a bus belonging to the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO Aviance), conveying $8,065,612 illegally to the Tarmac section of the international airport.

This is even as the Customs CG stated that another spectacular seizure, 147 sacks of Pangolin scales weighing 9,504.1kilogramme and worth N10,264,428,000.00 was also seized in Isheri area of Lagos State by Customs officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A.

According to Col. Hameed Ali: “While provisions are made for various forms of International electronic transfers, exceptions are made for those who prefer to travel across borders with cash and other monetary instruments.

“When this happens, those who carry physical cash across borders are obliged by law to make declaration of such movement once the value is above the approved threshold.

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“Currently, the value of the threshold in Nigeria is the equivalent of $10,000 and above. Therefore, all travellers in and out of Nigeria must declare any physical cash in excess of this threshold of $10,000 or it’s equivalent in any other currencies or monetary instruments.

“Acting on such credible information, the MMIA Command of Customs on the 16th of January, 2020, intercepted illegal movement of foreign currency at the ‘E’ Wing of the airport Tarmac. The consignment packed in a coaster bus belonging to NAHCO Aviance was loaded in six Bagco bags and were found not to have been declared at any approved point of entry or exit where voluntary declarations are recorded and maintained. One suspect, the driver of the bus, Chimezie Okonkwo, was immediately arrested and taken into custody with the intercepted consignment.

“On Saturday, 18th of January, 2020, an inventory of the consignment was taken and was witnessed by representatives of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), Customs Intelligence Unit, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Unit, Customs Police and the suspect.

“At the end of the inventory, a total number of 20 sealed wraps of Bagco bags were opened, counted, re-sealed and re-wrapped under video coverage from the beginning of the exercise to the end, and the total amount intercepted stood at $8,065,612 only.

“The consignment remains in safe custody while preliminary investigations have commenced on the seizures.

“In a related development, Customs officers of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A have also evacuated from a warehouse in Isheri area of Lagos, 147 sacks of Pangolin scales weighing 9,504.1Kg and worth N10,264,428,000.00.

“According to my officers, on the 19th of January, 2020, the Roving Team of the FOU, Zone A, while on credible intelligence, uncovered an abandoned warehouse at Isheri estate where a 2by20ft containers were stacked.

“Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and Pangolin falls under absolute prohibition category. Therefore, it’s importation or trade is illegal globally.

“Similarly, a total number of 3,067 bags of smuggled foreign parboiled rice (50kg); 3,722 of 25 litres and 1040 of 4.73 litres of foreign vegetable oil; 14 Units of exotic vehicles; 575 prices of used tyres; 703 cartons of foreign poultry products; 543 Jerry cans of Petroleum products; 416 bales of used clothing; among others were seized with a Duty Paid Value of N10,567,672,066 between January 7 to February 3, 2020.

“I, therefore, commend the acting Comptroller, FOU Zone A, DC Usman Yahaya and the Comptroller, MMIA Command, Comptroller Wale Adeniyi and their officers for a job well done.”

In a swift response to the allegation of its buses being used to launder foreign currency, NAHCO stated that it has no connection with the illegal activity.

In a statement made available to Tribune Online, and signed by the NAHCO management, the ground handling firm stated that: “The attention of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company plc (NAHCO aviance) has been brought to a press conference earlier today by the Comptroller – General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), ol. Hammed Alli (Rtd), to the effect that a vehicle belonging to NAHCO was intercepted with some cash in foreign currencies as it conveyed the money to an aircraft at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.

“We wish to state unequivocally that NAHCO as an organization has no connection whatsoever with this alleged act. The Company has initiated contact with the Nigerian Customs Service’ hierarchy to provide it with details of this incident.

“As a responsible corporate organisation, NAHCO will cooperate with all regulators, agencies and other stakeholders in not only finding out the truth about this unfortunate incident, but also rooting out malpractices in the sector.

“The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company does not condone irresponsible and criminal behaviour. The Company takes seriously the trust of its esteemed clients, partners and other stakeholders, both local and international, and will do everything to protect that trust.”

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